This is a different post for me and I feel compelled to write it anyway. It is important for executives to understand that if they want to be trusted, they have to act in trustworthy ways. If your engagement scores on trust are low and you wonder why, it is probably due in large part to people at the top saying one thing and doing or rewarding another. This can’t help but negatively impact the way your employees feel about working at your organization. When you are as large as Wells Fargo Bank, you need to act in ways congruent with your size and complexity, and subscribe to an even higher ethical standard if you want to ensure that your employees know you say what you mean.
If you haven’t heard about this story, here is a good run down:
Carrie Tolstedt, the former Wells Fargo consumer banking chief, retired with $124 million in stock, options and restricted Wells Fargo shares. If she’d been fired, the company could have clawed back $45 million. Shareholders will need to pony up the $185 million in settlement fines. Upon her retirement in July, after the organization was already under investigation and many employees had already been fired, the CEO, John Stumpf, called her “a standard-bearer for our culture” and “a champion for our customers”. Wow. If the Wells Fargo culture is defined by:
Don’t be surprised if your culture sucks and your reputation takes a major hit.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is correct, accountability means that someone at the top should have lost their job – that’s what happened to 5300 employees and that is what should have happened to the executive in charge of the area and probably the CEO. Wells Fargo touts that they put stronger mandatory ethics training in place to counter the problem of employees opening accounts without the client’s consent. But if you are an employee and your manager threatens you for not making your sales goals (and thus putting your job and paycheck in jeopardy), don’t be surprised if your ethics training misses the mark. “Accountable” should at least include sacrificing part of the pay the executives earned due to the increases in the stock price gained during the time period. Regulators estimate that as many as two million accounts may have been opened without customer’s consent. As a leader you don’t get to say that you are accountable unless you are willing to have skin in the game and own the consequences.
These types of scandals are big moments for us consider what kind of a United States we want to live in. I have a vision that all Americans have a fighting chance to have a roof over their head, enough to eat and a safe place for their children to grow.
Watching the CEO of Wells Fargo, with whom I have two accounts, makes me angry. As a shareholder, I am on the hook for paying the fine. As a student of leadership and practitioner who wants to support organizations to become better and more successful, my heart breaks. Firing 5300 employees, many of whom earned about $12 an hour, and expecting that to fix the problem, seems naïve, stupid or dishonest. When you make as much money as Ms. Tolstedt and Mr. Stumpf, then the least you could do is offer some of your own pay to balance the fine that the shareholders must pay. If 5300 employees were involved in the scandal (and of course there were more), there is something wrong in the system. In my experience, system wide issues almost always involve more powerful people at the top. It is shameful when they don’t own it.
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.